The reading of the first book of Samuel provides a real stimulus to prayer. It opens with a domestic scene, the home of a godly Levite (1 Chron. 6:33-34). In contrast to other Ephrathites of whom we read in the preceding book of Ruth, Elkanah did not leave his home-land in the time of stress. Instead, he dwelt with his family at Ramathaim-zophim, which means, the high place of the watchers. Like Habakkuk, he could say, “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what He will say unto me,” (Hab. 2:1).
Elkanah went yearly to worship at the temple, because God had instructed His people so to do (Deut. 12:4-7). Of course he might have excused himself and his family from going to Shiloh, but he was obedient to the Word of God. The Bible, likewise, governs our conduct by stating, “Not forsaking the assembling (or gathering) of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching,” (Heb. 10:25). “For where two or three are gathered (same word as in Heb. 10:25) together in My name, there am I in the midst of them,” (Matt. 18:20). There are many other lessons we could learn from Elkanah, but let us go on to consider Hannah.
It never has been the will of God that man should have more than one wife. In the beginning God gave only one, Eve, to Adam. The descendants of Cain, of whom we read in Genesis, were the first to ignore this original intention of the Lord. Whenever in Scripture a plurality of wives is mentioned, there is also the record of the resulting envy, strife, and bitterness. This is evident in the cases of Hagar, Leah, and others. The home of Elkanah was not an exemption from this rule, for these forms of evil are seen in the provocations of Penninah.
Hannah was much tried and afflicted, yet we do not read of her retaliating; instead, she found relief in prayer to God, her only unfailing source of comfort and strength: “Earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.” She had no rest at home, and even in Shiloh, where things should have been different, she was misjudged. With her cup of sorrow full, she poured out her heart in supplication, and was able to leave her burden with the Lord. She dried her tears and was then no more sad, for she proved the truth of Isa. 26:3, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee.” She could have sung, as we do in this day:
“I leave it all with Jesus
Day by day,
Faith can firmly trust Him,
Come what may;
She has dropped her anchor,
Found her rest
In the calm, sure haven
Of His breast.”
Thank God, we have a blessed refuge where always we find sure protection, and where we may cast on Him our every care. “Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you,” (1 Peter 5:7).
God rewarded Hannah’s faith by giving her a son, and what a son! The Lord did for her exceeding abundantly above all that she could have asked or thought. How she would love and cherish her own child, Samuel! Finally the time came when she must keep her vow, and give him back to God. What a heart-wrench! Yet in the energy of her faith she did it. The next chapter in the Book of Samuel, records her prayer, or, rather, her song. She experienced God’s love to her in a special way, for “God loveth a cheerful giver,” (2 Cor. 9:7). David once said, “I will not offer burnt offerings without cost,” (1 Chron. 21:24).
Hudson Taylor, after many weeks in a crowded sailing ship outward bound for China, remembering the tender parting with his mother, wrote, “How widely we are separated, who last year were so near. Praise God, He is unchangeable; His mercy never fails. I found in a book lent me by Captain Morris, the poem entitled, The Hebrew Mother, and was much affected by it. It caused me to remember the last time I heard it. Mother was present; my dearest… played it; and when we came to the lines: “I give thee to God, The God that gave thee”—Mother broke down; she clasped me in her arms, and wept aloud at the thought of our parting. May the Lord bless her and comfort her heart day by day… Jesus is precious. His service is perfect freedom. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Although absent from home, friends, and even country, Jesus is with me. He is all, and more than all. Much as my heart yearns to see them, the love of Christ is stronger, more constraining.”
In Psalm 116, the question is asked, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” Oh, for a heart that, in return, is exercised about offering thanksgivings to the Lord for the countless mercies received. Our hearts are so deceitful that we continually need to be stirred up, otherwise God will not get His portion (1 Cor. 16:2), much less voluntary offerings.
The Revised Version of Mal. 3:10, is striking: “Bring ye the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of Heaven and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
It was so in Hannah’s case; five children were given her for Samuel, whom she had loaned to the Lord. She got them all at once, the first recorded quintuplets. (One conception resulting in five children. Compare the language of Gen. 29:32-35, by way of contrast). God will be no man’s debtor. May the example of Hannah encourage us to give the Lord his place of pre-eminence in our lives, and He surely will pour out the richest of spiritual blessings upon us.